Six Steps to Selecting a Materials Management System

One of the greatest challenges in selecting a materials management system is the sheer number of solutions available. In an arena where time is money, because inefficiencies in the materials management may be costing your company thousands of dollars a day, filtering through the crowded software market is challenge number one.

Step 1: Choose candidates based on your industry, your primary internal process, and your current IT infrastructure.

The first step is recognizing that all materials management systems are not created equal. Some are very generic while others are specifically designed for a market niche. The materials management software for hazardous materials might be a totally different suite of tools than the one intended for managing a tool crib.

Each materials management system handles different manufacturing or material handling processes at a different level of clarity. Some software packages work best in a discrete processing environment, while others can handle job lots or mixed-mode manufacturing.

Still other suites handle retail distribution from procurement to store and back to warehouse better than their industrial-minded counterparts can hope to ever fulfill.

Step 2: Define your scope.

For some companies, your materials management system needs may truly be strictly an inventory management system. For others, determined to implement a fully-integrated strategic cost management program, you may need a more robust system that encompassed the entire supply chain life cycle.

Step 3: Decide your budget.

While it cannot be the only consideration, cost must calculate into decision making on a materials management system investment. In the first step, you may have found your choices limited by your current hardware/software infrastructure. If budget allows, you may need to consider upgrading the network capabilities.

Likewise, if budget is inflexible, you may need to look for a suite of tools that can be implemented incrementally. Both SAP and Oracle have core materials management system offerings with can have a simple inventory management software implementation as Phase One, and add more comprehensive functionality over time.

Step 4: Enlist the aid of an expert.

It is critical to have someone on your team that knows several different materials management systems, ones that are pertinent to your industry.

Whether that person exists within your organization or must be hired as a consultant, it is critical that you are not relying purely on sales representative information to make your implementation decision.

Before you hire a consultant, have them reveal up-front any relationship they may have with companies they might recommend.

You do not want an affiliate beholden to one company’s materials management system who is paid for referrals to that company providing key information for your decision making process, unless you know that fact up-front.

Step 5: Once you have a short list, contact existing users.

Any reputable materials management system provider should be glad to refer you to current customers to see the system in action. While some customers may have proprietary processes that they do not want outsiders to see, a certain percentage should be available for your implementation team to visit and examine in the workplace.

Step 6: Ensure the fielding plan includes complete training.

No matter how powerful your materials management system is, failing to include the human component in the fielding is a common error. There are costs involved both in training and in failure to train the users. Ensure there is pre-launch, initial launch and follow-up training provided as part of the system implementation.

By following these six steps, you can ensure your business employs the right process to finding and fielding the right software support for your materials management system. Each is important; short cuts that seem to save time and money are generally costly in the end.


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